Uganda TV: United States to Impose Sanctions if Anti-Homosexuality Bill is Approved (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Wade McMullen from the Kennedy Center tweeted me to say that the State Department denies that Obama threatened sanctions.

On this clip, we learn that sanctions may be in store for Uganda if Parliament passes the anti-gay bill.

Committee chair Stephen Tashobya is interviewed in this clip. Tashobya has at various times said the bill would not emerge from his committee. However, he would be a pivotal figure in the passage of the bill since his committee must submit a report for consideration by Parliament. Tashobya discloses on this clip the fact that the US has promised sanctions if the bill passes.

Just last week, Tashobya told me he was unable to comment on the bill. However, now he is on camera commenting on the president’s letter to the Ugandan committee.

Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Wants Anti-Homosexuality Bill Debated Next Week

So says the Monitor.

The Speaker of Parliament has directed the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to present the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2011 on the floor of Parliament.

The committee chairperson, Mr Stephen Tashobya, passed on Ms Rebecca Kadaga’s directive to committee members yesterday as he summoned them to attend next week’s session in person “to have the Bill concluded”.

In her November 13 letter, the Speaker advised Mr Tashobya to be mindful of what she said was the high demand by the public to address homosexuality.

“I write to reiterate my earlier instruction to your committee to expeditiously handle the review of the report on the Bill. As you are aware, there is high demand by the population to address the escalating problem of promoting and recruiting minors into homosexuality,” the letter reads in part.

“This is therefore to inform you that I shall place the Bill on the Order Paper immediately after conclusion of the Oil Bills,” she wrote. Parliament is concluding consideration of the Petroleum (Exploration, Production and Development) Bill as the House breaks off for Christmas recess on December 15, which suggests that after the Bill is hopefully completed by next Tuesday, MPs can expect to debate and probably pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Mr Tashobya said his committee had “a working document [ready] because we had a lot of responses during the public hearings.” The Bill was presented as a Private Members’ Bill by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati in the 8th Parliament and has since become a subject of international discussion, with a number of Western countries threatening to cut aid to Uganda if it is passed.

The working document is a report left over from the 8th Parliament and makes very few changes in the anti-gay bill.  I wrote about the committee report in May, 2011:

A paper designated as the final report of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee was leaked last Thursday, just ahead of Friday’s final session. I have good reasons to believe that the report did come from the committee although I cannot say for certain that the report would have been presented on the floor of the Parliament had the bill gotten that far. You can read the report, converted to a .pdf, by clicking here.

To help see what a revised bill would have looked like, I compared the original Anti-Homosexuality Bill with the report. This version makes the changes called for in the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee report (Click the link). In this version the sections crossed out were in the original bill and those underlined are the ones suggested by the committee.

Even after the changes, the penalty for private, consensual  same-sex intimacy would still be life in jail and the death penalty would remain since it is the penalty provided for aggravated defilement in Uganda. Clauses 4, 7, 8, 14, 16 & 17 were deleted but a new penalty for participating in the marriage of a same-sex couples. Presumably, this would discourage ministers from performing the ceremonies. Even if the bill had been amended in the manner suggested by the committee, the bill would have defined homosexual behavior in a way that criminalized the most modest forms of intimacy with either life in prison or death for HIV positive individuals.

According to the Monitor report, the Speaker wants to have the second reading of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill after the Petroleum Bills are completed. According to today’s agenda, the oil bills were debated in today’s session (click here to read the order paper for today). The listing of business to come does not list the AHB but according to the Monitor, Kadaga is going to put it on the order paper for sometime next week.


Uganda Committee Chair on Anti-Homosexuality Bill: No Comment

Normally a “no comment” response is not very newsworthy, but in this case the reply might signal a more serious effort to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill over the next several days.

Today, I spoke briefly with Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee chair Stephen Tashobya who declined to comment on my questions about his committees report on the anti-gay bill. When asked other questions about the legislation, he said he was unable to comment in any way on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

This is a departure for Mr. Tashobya who told me several months ago that his committee had more important business than the anti-gay measure. Tashobya has always been willing to discuss the progress (or more often the lack of progress) of the bill in his committee. However, I suspect he has been instructed to decline requests for comment.

I then spoke briefly with Mohammed Katamba who is an information officer with Parliament. He indicated that the committee report has not been completed and there was no date set for debate on the bill.

Recall that, in recent weeks, Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has pledged to bring the bill to the floor of Parliament for a vote before Christmas. The bill has new life thanks to Kadaga and passage seems more probable now than ever.


 Text of the 2011 committee report on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This report changes some wording but leaves in the death penalty.

Full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.

Committee Chair: No Plans Set for Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Stephen Tashobya, chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of the Ugandan Parliament, told me yesterday that he had not scheduled consideration for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  Asked if his committee would write a new report, or stick with the report issued during the last Parliament, Tashobya declined to say. “The committee will have a say on that and we will meet soon to decide how to proceed with all of the bills returned to the committee,” Tashobya explained.

When asked if he planned to have the anti-gay bill back to the floor of the Parliament within the required 45 day period, Tashobya expressed some reservations that he could guarantee that time table. He noted, “We have many bills which have a high priority, such as the Marriage and Divorce bill and other bills on commerce.”

Parliament rules require bills sent to committee to be acted on and returned for consideration within 45 days. Last year, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga warned committee chairs that they could face unspecified sanctions if this rule was not kept.

According to Parliament’s rules (see below), Tashobya could ask Parliament for more time if the committee has not prepared the necessary report within 45 days. At that point, Parliament could grant or decline the request. If the request is declined, Parliament could act on the bill at that point. If an extension is granted, the bill will be considered at the end of that period whether or not the committee’s work is complete.

When asked if he had been pressured by the Executive branch to go slow on the  anti-gay bill, Tashobya said he was unable to comment.

Tashobya, who was not at Parliament the day the bill was tabled, said he is aware that the bill has wide support among the MPs.


From Uganda’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedures

125. Delays with Bills

(1) Subject to the Constitution, no Bill introduced in the House shall be with the Committee for consideration for more than forty-five days.

(2) If a Committee finds itself unable to complete consideration of any Bill referred to it in sub-rule (1), the Committee may seek extra time from Parliament.

(3) Where extra time is not granted or upon expiry of the extra time granted under subrule (2), the House shall proceed to deal with the Bill without any further delay.

No Date Set for Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Yesterday, I reported that the Parliament of Uganda voted to return unfinished bills from the Eighth Session to business in the current session. One of those bills specifically referenced was the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
This morning I spoke with Parliament Spokeswoman, Helen Kawesa, who told me that no date had been set for debate on the anti-gay measure. “The Business Committee will meet to decide what bills are considered. Then they will be listed on the daily Order Paper,” Kawesa explained. The Business Committee is chaired by Speaker of the House Rebecca Kadaga and made up of all other committee chairs. Currently, no date has been set for this committee to consider a schedule for the bills returned from the Eighth Parliament.
I also spoke briefly to Stephen Tashobya, chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee. His committee prepared a report on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in May and recommended passage with some minor changes. He had no comment on the status of the anti-gay bill since he has been traveling.
According to Kawesa, the Business committee could recommend that the anti-gay bill go back to committee or it could recommend that the former committee report become the basis for debate in the Parliament. Apparently, the return of the bill to the floor is not automatic. The Speaker has some ability to delay it or expedite it. The decision of the Business committee may signal how quickly the bill will move.
The committee report from Tashobya’s committee left the severe aspects of the bill intact, including the death penalty and life in prison (see an analysis here).